What does it take to capture Caymankind in the skies? The crew carrying trays of rum punch are more than good at balancing on board and keeping a calm smile despite any signs of turbulence. In honour of Cayman Airways’ 49th anniversary, we spoke with some of the team members who dedicate their days — and nights — to keeping you safe and comfortable in the sky, learning what it takes to exude the signature Caymankind spirit from 30,000 feet high.
The Leader: Ann-Marie Byrd, Senior Manager of In-Flight Services/Crew Scheduling/Commissary, 30 Years of Service
As with any good team, success starts at the top. For senior manager Ann-Marie Byrd, she’s seen many sides of the airline industry over the past 30 years with the Islands’ flag carrier. With a degree in education and passion for teaching, Byrd initially got her start with Cayman Airways accepting the only position available at the time: secretary to the director of flight operations. After less than a year, she earned the title of crew scheduler and was given the responsibility of building and monitoring flight schedules for the pilots and cabin crew members. After a decade, Byrd moved up to manager of in-flight services and then on to product development — branding all of the Cayman Airways memorabilia you can find in this magazine — before combining all of her skills and talents to her current role.
“The delight and enthusiasm seen during the interview process for new cabin crew members [is the most rewarding],” she says. “There are personnel who have dreamt of a career in this field, and when they enter the room and experience the open house, it gives me satisfaction in the fact that we have an institution and tools that can create such enchantment.”
To Byrd, working for such a prestigious company is what sets Cayman Airways apart from many of the other carriers. “Here is an airline that makes passengers top priority,” she explains. “It’s a small airline, and employees are known by name and not by identification numbers.”
As the national flag carrier, bringing the Caymankind spirit and mentality on board is extremely important. All employees are trained in the Cayman P.R.I.D.E. programme, where Caymankind principles are instituted. The crew serve as the face of the Cayman Islands, and for some passengers, this is the first and lasting impression they receive. “Upon boarding a Cayman Airways flight, the ambience is set for passengers for arrival into the Cayman Islands,” Byrd says.
Most of the Caymanian passengers also travel overseas for medical reasons, so when Byrd receives positive feedback on the care they received whilst on board, she knows it’s a job well done. “From the time passengers step on board, they will experience the hospitality, friendliness and kind-heartedness of our local people,” Byrd says. “It is our intention that passengers will leave with the experience of having the most memorable trip with plans to return to the Cayman Islands and make Cayman Airways their first choice of travel.”
The Newcomer: Erica Burke, Junior Cabin Crew Member, 1.5 Years of Service
Growing up with pilots in the family and dreaming of being a flight attendant since she was a child, Cayman-born Erica Burke finally made the leap a little less than two years ago. “Since I was six months old, I’ve always been travelling at least once or twice a year; it’s in my blood,” she says. “My dad has his pilot’s licence, so I grew up around that, but I figured I would rather be on the customer service side than flying the actual plane.”
When it came time to start the six-week training programme, Burke wasn’t prepared for what was ahead. Not only did trainees have to jump into the ocean blindfolded, they had to take their life vests out of the pouch and put them on. “I never expected something like that,” she says. “The training is challenging but very rewarding once you have completed it and begin to fly and use everything you have learned.”
September will mark Burke’s two-year anniversary with Cayman Airways, and so far, the experience has lived up to the dream. Every day, Burke enjoys bringing her signature Caymanian spirit on board and meeting passengers along the different routes she serves.
“In our in-flight announcements we say, ‘Sit back, relax and indulge yourself in Caymankind, where it’s not just a feeling, but a way of life,’ and to me, that is exactly what Caymankind is — a feeling that represents the Caymanian hospitality embedded in us,” she explains. “It’s not something you can describe easily, but once you experience it, it’s incomparable to anything else!”
What else makes the airline different from others? Burke says it’s the spirit of the crew on board, who are openly friendly and love to laugh with passengers and make them feel as comfortable as possible. Repeat passengers who travel every weekend or every month become like family, and the staff know each of them by name.
“I hear from people all the time that not every airline is like us. We can answer any question you have, no matter how silly you may think it is, and for us that’s a big part of Caymankind,” she says. “The way we greet and treat you on board is truly something different than what you would experience on any other airline.”
The Pro: Deneita Bauer, Senior Cabin Crew Member & Chief Cabin Crew-Saab/Trainer, 29 Years of Service
Senior cabin crew member Deneita Bauer, who also works as a training manager, has served nearly three decades and still finds that meeting different people, experiencing other countries and acting as an ambassador for the airline and the Cayman Islands are some of the most rewarding parts of the job. “The most common feedback I receive is passengers thanking us for our service, especially the meal service on long flights, as well as how friendly and helpful our crews are,” she says. So what’s the secret behind this type of service on board? In addition to passing a series of interviews, flight attendant applicants must have “a friendly degree of poise and character,” she says. “I hope our passengers receive a friendly, gracious and unique experience on board, which they will remember long after they have left us.”
It takes more than a warm smile to join the CAL crew — although that is definitely one of the requirements! Here are a few of the boxes potential CAL crew members need to check off to make the cut:
There’s a reason Cayman Airways heralds the slogan, “Those who fly us love us.” The airline offers guests the same Caymankind treatment in the air that they’ll receive once they land in the Islands. Here are a few of the signature services offered on every trip:
Two Free Bags: Whilst other airlines charge as much as $130 round trip in baggage fees, Cayman Airways offers one of the best values in the sky today, with two free checked bags weighing up to 55 pounds each.
Free Rum Punch and Meals: Every international jet flight includes free rum punch on board, as well as complimentary meals in business class and on flights over two hours.
Caymanian Hospitality: As you step on board, prepare to be greeted with smiles and signature Caymanian hospitality, with a cabin crew ready to assist in any way possible to make your time in the sky feel like a breeze.
Most Nonstop Flights to Cayman: Not only does Cayman Airways feature premium leather seats and more legroom than any other airline flying to the Islands; it also offers the most nonstop international flights to Cayman.
Author: Lane Nieset
Photographer: Jim Gates